What follows is my personal baseball umpiring philosophy and the thought behind it. I knew as a Little League baseball player that I would be a baseball umpire someday. The umpires that worked the baseball games I played in were mostly men that had an interest in the game. I certainly liked (loved) the game.
When I started umpiring my philosophy was that I wanted to learn more about the rules of baseball, the mechanics of positioning myself on the field, the angle and distance factor, and the philosophy of being a baseball umpire. I started buying umpiring manuals, cassette tapes, VHS tapes, books and asking questions of baseball umpires.
Over the thirty years of my career my philosophy has changed. Let me explain what I mean. At first I wanted to get everything correct. And I still do (want to get everything correct), but realizing you have one pair of eyes, one angle to the call, and one chance to get the call right. Other folks, like players, coaches, managers, and fans have a different philosophy. They see the play from different positions with different wants and desires than you. Can I say that when I, or any baseball umpire, makes a call, everyone does not agree with my call. We have a saying that goes something like this, “If Grandma knows he’s out then your call is easy.” But, if you have a close one, then there will be oh’s and awe’s, coming from everywhere.
I was also very technical in my philosophy at first. Nobody did anything that was against the rules and got away with it. I soon learned that I should not go looking for trouble, it will find me. Also, if someone questioned my call, I got very defensive. I sometimes still do that. I was working a game in the York Colonial Tournament around 1990 with a 13-year professional umpire and his regular partner and he concluded his pre-game conference with “let’s have some fun today.” That made a lasting impression on me, when, at that time in my career, no one had ever said that to me before. Have fun. Since then, I have said that often to myself and to my partner.
When a pitcher releases the baseball, my baseball umpiring philosophy is that a strike is coming at me until I am convinced differently. When I have a close play on the bases, the runner is out, unless something convinces me differently. Strikes and outs make the game go quickly. If you are consistently calling strikes and outs, you will get a reputation for that.
Another principle I have learned is that surprises are not good for a baseball umpire. Anticipate the play, not the call, let the play happen. See the play, take a picture, develop the picture, make your call based on the result of your mental decision. You might think that the strike/out principle I mentioned earlier is wrong to have, but you need a baseball umpiring philosophy.
One other philosophy element I have is my appearance. I can’t change my height, my build, or my age. But I can appear to enjoy what I’m doing. The only personnel allowed on the baseball field are players, managers, coaches and umpires. Your game is the most important one in your mind and in the minds of the folks in attendance. Look like you want to be there and that you cleaned your uniform and shined your shoes in preparation for the baseball game.